I am a dyed-in-the-wool Bronte fan. Charlotte changed my life because I ended up chasing her ghost to live in Haworth myself, discovered village life and so many varied experiences there which fuelled my writing. But it was Jane Austen I turned to in order to help me write my last book – namely Persuasion.  I love everything she’s ever written though I hated her at first – thought she was boring until my wonderful English teacher Kate Taylor at Barnsley Sixth Form College told me that I was ‘reading her all wrong’ she said and – quote ‘my dear girl, she’s taking the piss’. All kids go into shock when they 1) find out teachers have first names and 2) we hear them drop a swear word. This was not entry level swearing like ‘bloody’ and it made me sit up and take notice more than I might have done had she not used it. Something rather odd happened because of this interchange because I found that when I went back to Persuasion, I read it differently, as it was meant to be read: through a prism of JA’s minx-like sarcasm and acerbic wit and I loved it.

Jane Austen is classic literature of course. Don’t let anyone convince you that she is the same as us mere mortal romantic writers. The very thought! Because that would forbid those who revere her and read ‘proper’ books (ie those without happy, hopeful endings) from appreciating her. Because there are those who slam the doors on romantic novels, who will not embrace the concept that people with intellect can actually enjoy them. They turn reading into an elitist pursuit and I don’t know how anyone with any love for books and truly knows the value of the impact of reading can encourage such division. To diss a book for its genre is dissing a reader for their choice. No one should be encouraged from enjoying a book.

Jane Austen wrote about life in her time, the absurdities of snobbery, the unfairness of the inheritance laws, the wile of cads and opportunists; she matched strong women with men strong enough to handle them. She wrote, in Persuasion, about the Renaissance of a woman and gave hope that just because you were on the shelf at twenty-two, that magic can still happen. And she wrote happy endings. She is, to all intents and purposes, a genre writer whatever the intellectual snobs will have you believe. She is one of us and I think she’d have been delighted to be classed as such.

And here is a gorgeous edition of Persuasion with a matching notebook for someone to win. All you have to do is to tell me…

What is the name of the dashing hero in Persuasion (His title and surname will do if you don’t know his first name)?

Send your answer here and put ‘JANE’ in the subject line.

UK Only, only one entry per person (duplicates will be deleted). Competition ends midnight  Friday 5 Feb and the winner will be announced across social media and on here on Saturday Feb 6.

Good luck everyone!